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Out of daddy's reach

Tomorrow at a ragged 4am my oldest daughter will get on a bus and travel to the airport. At the international airport she'll get on a plane that will fly her further from us then she has ever been and for a longer time than ever before. That's kind of hard for parents who have rarely been away from their kids at all.  A short time ago (feels like it anyway) she couldn't get to the other side of the street without holding my hand. 

A few months ago (ok it was probably a few years ago) I discovered that my daughter was suddenly smarter at me in a bunch of academic areas (probability-density functions anyone?). I used to check and sign her little homework diary now I can barely pronounce her formula sheet and her scary looking scientific calculator makes my old school calculator look like a donkey kong handheld. In fact I think my school calculator probably was a donkey kong handheld. 

Startling. And normally I'm only startled when my chainsaw kicks back. I'm not sure what I think about all this growing up stuff. But I'm sure feeling some things. And the feelings are attached to pictures in my mind.

I have a picture of her in my mind, newly born, newly wrapped, in white hospital towels blinking at the brightness of hospital fluorescences. 'Oh, she's a pretty baby' one of the nurses say and I believe her. That picture is an unlikely neighbour (but who said our minds configured pictures like snapfish anyway) to this one: I'm sitting in the back (my choice believe it or not) of our Mazda 3 while she and her friend are up the front and she drives along a dark, winding country road to maths tutoring. There I am sitting in the back - ex lumber jack, ex army guy, rescue pilot, give us one more push up for the team kind of guy - with my life in the steering-wheel hands of my teenage daughter. 

Not so long ago she had to rely on me and my hands to keep her new pink bike with cool sparkles and her little girl body upright while her little girl legs tried to power the bike and keep balance all at the same time (the tongue sticking out was obviously for balance). Not so long ago she had to rely on me when she tumbled into Grandma J's backyard pool, sinking like a toddler-stone to the bottom. I can still see her there, just before I've dived in and pulled her out, at the bottom, helpless and drowning with eyes wide open looking around for a rescuer. Later I can see her standing (yep standing) on the kitchen table listening to my silly, teasey voice (we are all teasers in this fam) and her then saying in a very seewious 2 year old 'adult' voice: 'daddy, there is something wong with your head'. 

In all of those pictures I can reach out to her, hold her, hug her, save her. Soon I won't be able to do that. Soon she will be out of reach…

I'm not sure what to do about this. The daddy standing by the pool part of me wants to stop her from getting on that plane. But the daddy sitting in the back of the Mazda with her at the steering wheel wants to urge her on. The daddy who ticks and signs a cute little homework  diary wonders if she is prepared. The daddy who just caught a glance of the complex maths she's been doing wonders if I'm prepared. Maybe the teasing daddy should have taken the 'Daddy there's something wong with your head' comment more seriously. In any case the reality is that my ability and power to protect her has been diminished at the same time as the potential for danger has increased. In helicopter speak the daddy power available has reduced and the life-power required increased. In helicopter-speak I am no longer as much a pilot in my daughters life as I am a passenger - at least for the next ten days. 

Pilots don't like to be passengers. I'd like to see the flight plan please. 

But the reality is I don't get to see the flight plan. I don't know what happens in the next ten days anymore than the next ten years. All I know is tomorrow at 4am my daughter will fly away and she will be out of daddy's reach. 

'Oh she's a pretty baby…'  











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